Friday, February 18, 2011

Is the Church being cruel?

Michael and Mary have lived in Brighton for some years now, they are both asylum seekers.
The Labour government placed various restrictions on asylum seekers, not only can they not work but they also can't marry.
Michael has been here six years, he was a political activist. After a year in detection and "questioning" he was eventually released and escaped and came to this country. He is devout and was sustained by his faith through his time in prison.
Mary is from the same country, they knew one another as students, her father taught Michael. When Mary's father was arrested, in order to get him to talk they tortured her in front of him. She won't talk about what they did to her. She came to England about four years ago. She was frightened and came to live near Michael, they fell in love, they conceived a child. She comes to Mass daily. They want to marry. Mary is a daily communicant. Both families are devout, pregnancy outside marriage is shameful for them.

The State will not allow them to marry and although in every other way they are free to marry, because the State does not allow it, the Catholic Church in England and Wales excludes them from marriage.

Our government have stopped deporting asylum seekers to their homeland but is very slow to process asylum claims, it could ten years or never happen, but Mary and Michael have to live with the consequences. They can understand the State being cruel to them, they are used to that but the Church being complicit in that cruelty is something new.

Ultimately, do I have to persuade Mary and Michael that despite all they have been taught and all they feel in their guts, that living together as man a wife without the blessing of Our Mother is not sinful? They burn for one another, yet they also burn for the Lord, they are in the difficult position of having to choose between one another and the Lord, simply because the British government has decided to forbid people in their situation may not marry.

Pray for the many people in Mary and Michael's position.

84 comments:

Auricularis said...

If they were such devout Catholics, why did they have sex outside marriage in the first place? Did someone hold a gun to their heads and force them into it?

Something is not quite right here.

This country has enough trouble in alleviating the poverty of people, born here. The last governments unchecked immigration free for all, has been a disaster from start to finish. We just simply cannot cope with the amount of asylum seekers that come here, on top of the problems the British tax payer faces today. Charity has to begin at home.

Anagnostis said...

This is absolutely terrible, Father. Can't you do a "Friar Lawrence" and marry them sacramentally on the quiet? They could then approach a civil registrar when circumstances allow.

Prayers from me, of course.

fidelisjoff said...

Whether it is education, civil partnerships and now marriage for two Catholics, the Church in E&W does what it does best, agree with the state, ignore the magisterium and punish those that oppose their dissent. I am not surprised it is my personal experience I await more faithful times.

nickbris said...

I don't see how the State can legally ban them from getting married.All we hear about at the moment is Human Rights but the most basic of these Rights is being free to receive all the Sacraments.

This ridiculous Coalition who only seem to have time to undo everything of the previous Government should look into this nonsense.

The sad thing is that this country is insignificant in the affairs of the world and perhaps they could show the rest of it's inhabitants that we are more civilised by granting the Human Rights that we boast about.

In my lifetime the only useful thing I have ever had from any Government is a Bus Pass and I wouldn't mind betting that that is under threat.

Gigi said...

Although beautifully written, that is so achingly sad. Another case of legality having little in common with justice and politics ousting morals.
They have not been convicted of any crime in this country, and yet their marriage is deemed unlawful?
I suspect many people would also be shocked that a sacrament of the Catholic church is prohibited by the state in this way, for no good reason.
We pray for them, but their love is surely blessed anyway.

Mercury said...

Father, is there any way that a priest can marry them without the approval of the British government? Like, where they'd be sacramentally, but not legally married?

For example, I know the situation is different, but isn't that the state of affairs for couples who are civilly divorced who have no had their marriages declared null?

berenike said...

Is there no chance of some kind of exception?

Bryan said...

Well according to the Home Office Guidance (dated 14 Jan 2011) I have just found they could marry in a CofE Church without needing the "Certificate of Approval for Marriage".

"5.1 The rules on certificates of approval do not currently apply if you plan to get married at an
Anglican Church in England or Wales, after marriage banns or an ecclesiastical licence. You must
contact a member of the clergy at the church where you plan to get married to make the appropriate
arrangements. However the policy of excluding these religious ceremonies from the certificate of
approval scheme was declared unlawful by the High Court. The Government has indicated it will
change the rules to bring such marriages within the scope of the scheme. The date of this change
has not yet been determined."

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/visitingtheuk/coa/coaguidance.pdf

August said...

Can you marry them secretly?
Can your bishop make an exception, or does an issue like this have to go to Rome? Who needs to be convinced?

I believe the changes to civil marriage over the last 100 years or so (not to mention the redefinition of marriage they are trying to do now) renders it incompatible with the sacrament. It has ceased to be about marriage and is now about the divorce industry. A contract that was used to protect injured parties in case of breach of contract is now used as pretext to redistribute assets and control people, often in favor of the offending party rather than the injured one.

Anonymous said...

Why can't you marry them in the eyes of God so that they do mot sin. Later they can legalise their marriage. With the promotion of same sex marriage it may be wiser for churches not to officially marry people but to secretly give people sacramental marriages.

Bryan said...

Just sent you an e-mail Fr Blake.

I am quite sure that they could Michael & Mary can get the necessary approval and get married at St Mary Magdalen's.

See 3.3 and and 3.9 of the Home Office guidance issued 14th January 2011.

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/visitingtheuk/coa/coaguidance.pdf

Ttony said...

Father: is that right that you are not allowed to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage in E&W between two people who are eligible to receive the Sacrament but who are unable to make the civil contract?

That would be a scandalous subservience of the Church to the State.

Stephen said...

Father,

It is a criminal offence for an official of the State to perform a (civil) marriage between two persons when such a (civil) marriage is prohibited.

Is your problem a consequence of a Catholic priest being a (civil) registrar for the purposes of the (civil) Marriage Act? If so then it is a very nasty side-effect of legislation intended to remove an inequality between the Established Church and other religious institutions.

Or is your problem that while it is possible for you to conduct a (sacramental) marriage that is not a (civil) marriage, the bishops of England and Wales have decreed that you may not do so?

Perhaps you could honour the memory of the martyrs of the penal days, by performing the (sacramental) marriage without the State being aware!

I will include Michael and Mary in my daily prayers.

Anonymous said...

Can they not have a Church marriage that is not registered with the state?

A friend's grandmother was widowed and she fell in love with a widower. They were both devout but for financial reasons did not want to be legally married. So... they had a small ceremony in the parish church and were married int eh eyes of the Church - just not legally married in the eyes of the state.

Of course, that was here in America so perhaps that isn't an option for you. However, that seems like it would be a good step forward for the couple you discuss.

Titus said...

because the State does not allow it, the Catholic Church in England and Wales excludes them from marriage.

This does not sound possible or lawful, Father. What of the prescript of Canons 841 ("it is only for the supreme authority of the Church to approve or define the requirements for [the sacraments'] validity") and 843 ("Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.")?

Granted, the laws governing marriage are numerous (for instance, are asylum seekers "transients" within the meaning of C. 1070?), but those that actually prohibit marriage are all in the Code (see C. 1075, "It is only for the supreme authority of the Church to declare authentically when divine law prohibits or nullifies marriage."). How then does the episcopal conference justify maintaining particular law that precludes such people from marrying?

And given that the valid form of the sacrament is so simple (exchange of vows in the present tense evidencing an unequivocal and lifelong commitment between a man and woman between whom there is no impediment, in the presence of a person authorized to witness a marriage in that place), it seems that this is a problem that could be easily circumvented. (Say, charter a fishing boat and get married in Calais?)

I'm going to presume that there's something I'm missing here. I would enjoy it if someone would tell me what it is.

Mike Cliffson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deacon Nathan Allen said...

As St Thomas Aquinas says, an unjust law is no law at all. Might you not, Father, witness their exchange of consent, even though there would be no civil effect?

Mac McLernon said...

Marry them according to the Church law - ie. the vows stuff. Just don't play ball with the civil authorities and do the Registry Office bit. You just can't do the vows in a building which is registered for weddings... so a church hall is fine.

If the civil authorities are happy for people to live together, it makes no difference to them if the couple take vows according to Church law, but it would mean everything to a devout couple!

Joshua said...

Fr Blake,

Marry them. The State cannot be allowed to overrule the Church. (You may have to go to prison, but you would have done the right thing.)

Mark Skype said...

Surely in these exceptional circumstance it is not sinful for them to live together or have a child. I take it that you feel the same which is why you do not refuse them communion.

The state's position is unjust and it would be nice to see the church stand up against this process by giving them a religious marriage without the civil element if necessary. I'm not sure why the church is hesitant, maybe it would be illegal to do so. If it's not illegal then i for one would support the church in doing so even if this required an exception to the usual practice. Have you asked your bishop who is a good fellow whether this would be possible?

If so, why does the church not support them in contesting the state's position on this. It would need probably to go to the Supreme Court with a ruling based on an interpretation of the European Court of Human rights as the restriction on them marrying is written into law.

pelerin said...

That is so sad Father. The Government seems to bend over backwards offering 'human rights' left right and centre and yet in this case the young couple seem to have no rights in this respect. I would be tempted to say 'Marry them in secret before God' behind closed doors and when at last they are legally allowed to marry they could have a civil wedding and no one would be any the wiser. Aren't we told that couples marry each other the Priest being a witness?

I remember when my future husband and I went to the presbytery one evening and said that we wanted to get married. The Irish Priest who answered the door told us that he could marry us that night if we so wished although it would not have been legal! Was he right or was he joking? I don't know.

I wonder whether the young couple could get married in France or are they not allowed out of this country?

What right has the British government to impose this restriction on them? Bringing up a child together they need each other so much and they need the sacraments too. This is such a cruel dilemma for them.

Richard said...

Father,

I'm not a canon lawyer, but it might be worth asking someone who is to take a look at Canon 1116.

That says that:

a) if two Catholics are free (according to canon law) and wishing to marry, but

b) they cannot find a priest to marry them "without grave inconvenience", and

c) that situation is reasonably expected to last for at least a month,

then they are permitted to marry "validly and licitly" without a priest, "before witnesses only".

Now I'm not an expert, and this is presumably mainly meant for places where priests are few and far between (or in prison). But it seems to me that if the civil law forbits a priest from marrying them, that will be a "grave inconvenience" that prevents them from marrying in the usual way.

If so, could they use this provision to marry without a priest? It would not be valid under civil law, but it would be valid in the eyes of the Church - and of God.

Wellwisher said...

Can they not have a Church of England marriage that was immediately convalidated? I am sure clever Canon lawyer could find a way through this ;)

Jack O'Malley said...

What did the Lord say? Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's, just be sure to ask Caesar's permission first."

Seriously, if the Church can claim (and it does) that a couple is still married in the eyes of the God though they have obtained a civil divorce, why can She not marry a couple sacramentally without the prerequisite of a civil contract?

The State be damned. The State will help you abort you child, give you the "right" to "marry" your same-sex "partner" and impregnate yourself with an anonymous donor's semen producing an ipso facto bastard. What claim has the State as a source of moral teaching?

Why should the Church not intervene and take compassion upon this couple's plight and relieve their baby of the onus of bastardy?

Marry them. And marry them quickly before Rowan's sharia law hauls them out for stoning.

Sharon said...

Father, in the early days of Australia the Irish didn't have a priest and so they would "jump the broomstick" and often have marriages and baptisms when the priest arrived. Now, having said this, I am not sure whether or not they had a civil ceremony in the absence of a priest.

mikesview said...

The highest (canon) law is charity.

Damask Rose said...

They are so burnt on each other they can't separate from each other so that they don't commit mortal sin. (Um, something in the Catechism about getting another person to sin...) They're so burnt on the Lord that they'd rather commit mortal sin and Mary, with your consent has a sacrilegious communion every day. You seem to condone this. Why can't you get them to separate?

In general terms, would you get other co-habiting couples to separate and confess before marriage? After all, if they can afford the wedding reception and honeymoon, they could afford bed-and-breadkfast for a while couldn't they. Do divorced and remarried Catholics get Communion with you too, if they're burning for each other? And chastity is what? I find a number of your threads on fornication somewhat ambiguous, including those on celibacy sometimes. What other types of fornicators and adulterers get soft treatment from you?

Why the Bishops are complying with the State, I don't know. I only consider myself married because I married in Church. You could always marry them on the quiet. I waited to be married in Church to have sex and a baby. How can you even write about the dilemma you have about allowing them to live in mortal sin? The Ten Commandments are what to you? What kind of witness are you bearing to the Faith and to all us other Catholics who choose to live by the Faith?

If there is a State impediment to their getting married lawfully, then they should separate and carry their cross, and sacrifice, like many of us do. Get them to "offer it up" Father. Do you "burn" for their souls Father?

Why are the priests so weak on the cohabiters and contracpeters now?

Why not do a lovely thread on chastity, holy purity, chastity in marriage and so on Father.

And, um, no, I don't think I'm being, sigh, Jansenist.

I often wonder how I'm going to bring up my son chastely with the example from the Catholic Church today.

Titus said...

This post seems to have generated some confusion. My understanding from reading it had been that the Bishops of England and Wales have promulgated ecclesiastical law for English and Welsh dioceses that prohibits the celebration of the sacrament of matrimony (or the assistance of a priest at such a marriage)between persons not lawfully permitted to contract a marriage by the laws of the United Kingdom (or that otherwise keys the liceity of witnessing a marriage to the civil law).

If that interpretation is correct, the comments encouraging Fr. Blake to witness the marriage on the sly are encouraging not disobedience of a civil law, but disobedience of an ecclesiastical law. Furthermore, depending on how the ecclesiastical law in question is written (i.e. if it limits the faculties of British priests to witness marriages), it might actually render Fr. Blake incapable of witnessing a valid marriage. I don't know. I do know that it's uncouth and un-Catholic to go about encouraging priests to disobey their bishops.

Surely in these exceptional circumstance it is not sinful for them to live together or have a child.

Surely it is a sin. Moral Theology 101: sex is for marriage. We can, until the cows come home, list reasons that people can't get married at some given time. That doesn't mean the operation of the divine and natural laws grinds to a halt during that time.

Mike Cliffson said...

I am utterly scandalized.
That said , I had always understood that if a coupla catholic castaways on a desert island, say,after a prudential time of nonrescue, should marry in the sight of God, period, the priests ofthe sacrament being the husband and wife, such a marriage would be sacramentally valid, however irregular.
If the church in England has become a desert, in deference to Ceasar,they could do likewise, or perhaps would it be disobedience to the bishop in England for kindly souls, priests it might be, to arrange for them to be married by proxy (is a double proxy canonically valid?) in some part of the world, maybe beyond the reach of EU extradition writs, where the English caesar's writ runneth nor scareth not?
Auriculus: red herrings.

PuzzlingChristian said...

Where is the forgiveness?

Michael Petek said...

If I remember my Canon Law correctly, the Bishop can give permission for you to marry them even though the marriage could not be celebrated in accordance with the civil law.

There might be a human rights case in this.

Clare said...

I am with Auricularis on this one. Something is not quite right here.

This couple have had sex oustdie marriage and have a child together, yet you give the lady daily communion?
There are people on here thinking with their hearts not their heads. Be careful Father Ray, in cases like this things are rarely what they seem. You may rejoice at having one more issue to beat the church with , but the rules are there for a reason and they are there for everyone. This is a minefield, I trust you will practice caution Father.

Just another mad Catholic said...

Since when did the Church in a non Catholic country give a crap about the states laws regarding marriage?

Does the Church in India prevent a convert from the Brahman Caste and convert from the Dalit Caste marrying each other?

seriously loopy

Fr Ray Blake said...

Titus, You sum up the situation of priests in this country. I am told that I canot marry a couple in this situation either licitly or validly.

Auricularis, Such things happen, unmarried young couples can occassionally be tempted to fornicate and the Church be asked to absolve such sin.

In the case of both of these people staying in their own country would probably mean death - your comment is heartless and lacking in mercy or justice, let alone charity.

Peter Collins said...

So much for being fiercely traditional Father!
Why exactly are you giving this lady daily communion? In doing so and admitting to it on your blog, basically what you are saying-by your deeds is-that we can go out have sex before marriage, father illegitimate children or commit adultery and as long as we ‘burn’ to be with the other person it's OK! Fr. Ray will still give us all communion regardless of the teachings of the church?

Did it ever occur to you that she might have fallen pregnant in order to strengthen her case? You cannot be so naive father that this did not cross your mind.

G.Michael Scott said...

Father your reply to Titus:

"In the case of both of these people staying in their own country would probably mean death - your comment is heartless and lacking in mercy or justice, let alone charity."

I thought that Titus spoke a great deal of sense. The teaching of the Church is not multiple choice, it is applied for a reason and does not change to suit each individual situation, no matter how heart rendering it may be.

We only have the word of these two people that returning to their own country would mean death.
I find it abhorrent that there are people on here who would be more than happy to see you disobey the authority of the church and marry this couple in secret.

You could not make it up.

If anyone lacks charity Father it is you, by highlighting this case for your own five minutes of fame on the bloggsphere you are probably giving this young couple false hope.

Richard said...

Damask Rose, this couple are in a very different situation to most co-habiting couples. They WANT to get married, they are ready and willing to get married - but the State is preventing them.

Fr. Stephen Brown said...

Dear Father - it's a few years since I practised Canon Law - I may be a bit rusty - and you may have received sound advice from someone in your own diocese. That said, I don't see why canons 1130 & 1131 of the code dealing with 'The secret celebration of marriage' couldn't be applied here:
1130 - "For a grave and urgent reason, the local ordinary may permit that a marriage be celebrated in secret." My commentary gives examples of sufficiently urgent reasons, including "a civil law prohibiting the celebration of marriage between different categories of people." You must still carry out the proper investigations to establish freedom to marry, and the Ordinary's obligation to secrecy ceases if there is a danger of grave scandal or harm to the sanctity of marriage (c. 1132). Again, you are one with all the relevant facts, but it does seem to me that a grave and urgent reason exists, and the universal law allows a bishop or VG to permit a secret celebration of marriage.

santoeusebio said...

Marry them and take the consequences. It will be an interesting and useful test case.

Nicolas Bellord

Fr William R. Young said...

As I understand it, the risk, if a priest "marries" a couple who are not able to marry civilly, is imprisonment after conviction by a civil court of law.
Canon Law recognises that the temptation to pre-consummate a union is strong, and, from memory, a marriage should not be delayed beyond a month precisely so that the parties are not left in danger of falling into sin when it is a proper sacramental marriage that they desire.
Ending up in prison would cause very great disturbance to my parish, and, with the current shortage of priests, would severely embarrass the Bishop.
I would end up with a criminal record.
Should I risk all this?
Our ancestors in the faith risked death because of their fidelity to the Mass.
I think we need a lead from our Bishops on this one.

Richard said...

Father, I've had another idea.

Canon 1116 (which I mentioned above, for where the parish priest is unable to marry a couple) says that they can (and should) first seek out ANY priest or deacon to marry them, and that if Canon 1116 applies that marriage will be valid.

This would not (I think) be valid under UK civil law, because I think it is only the parish priest who is authorised to act as a registrar. But it seems it might be valid in the eyes of the Church.

So what a priest from another country was visiting you? Preferably one who doesn't come to the UK very often.

What would happen if one morning, whilst you and your visitor were having breakfast, the couple came and asked you if you could marry them. You explained again why you could not, and said that you could not see that situation changing in the near future.

Then you went out for the day, visiting someone well out of the way, having left the visiting priest the keys to the Church so that he could say his Mass.

Of course the visiting priest will know that a priest who marries a couple under Canon 1116 has to inform the bishop, but not until after he has done so.

Not that I'm making any suggestions; just thinking out loud here.

Richard said...

Mac McLernon - a wedding conducted by Fr Blake in the church hall wouldn't work - to be valid under Canon Law, it needs the Bishop's prior permission to take place anywhere other than the parish church. Canon 1118.

And anyway, that would still involve Fr Blake disobeying his Bishop.

That's why I think we need the emergency provisions in Canon 1116 - it's the only way I can see that might allow a valid marriage under canon law (although not under civil law) without involving the parish priest (who would be guilty of disobedience) or getting the bishop's permission (which presumably wouldn't be granted).

Auricularis said...

How exactly is it uncharitable to point out that immigration is a full blown problem for this country, exacerbated by the last government? Does charity and compassion mean that we are to be completely blind to the problems on our shores, before we go solving other people's problems across the ocean? This was the same pretense, that was used by Blair to take us into an illegal war with Iraq.

God alone, knows how many people that come here as asylum seekers that are in danger of death for one reason or another - but how are we to realistically support them all? Is this a problem that only Britain is meant to solve?

Michael Petek said...

I've just visited the Border Agency website, and it sounds like the reason why your couple cannot marry is that they need but don't have a Certificate of Approval.

The Government has announced its intention to abolish this requirement, and subject to Parliamentary scrutiny it expects to do so in the Spring.

terry said...

The 2005 regulations which were introduced and brought in the Certificate of Approval scheme have been declared by the UK Courts and the European Court of Human Rights to be invalid as an attack on the fundamental right to marry contained within the ECHR.

See the O`Donoghue judgement at http://strasbourgconsortium.org/document.php?DocumentID=5144

As a result of O`Donoghue, the Home Ofice announced that it would abolish the scheme this year. Unfortunately it has announced it will operate the scheme until it thinks up new rules. See http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/newsfragments/32-coa-changes

It seems to be a priority of this Government to give civil partnerships the right to be celebrated on church property rather than correct a grave injustice to people who wish to exercise the fundamental right to marry recognised in terms of the Natural Law and the ECHR

Until then presumably, all people like your couple can do is in the morning go through a marriage ceremony in an Anglican Church or designated Registry Ofice. In the afternoon they would have another marriage ceremony in your Church or as Mulier Fortis proposes, in the Church Hall. The second ceremony would not be the celebration of marriage in terms of the State marriage legislation as both parties were already married to each other.

It would be like the system which operates in France and in Italy (and other countries ollowing the Code Napoleon) where the civil ceremony at the Town Hall is performed first followed by the Religious ceremony.

But this situation must be common up and down the land. Should not the Bishops be taking legal opinion to ensure that it can "marry" such people without breaking the law of the land especially where the legal position is not at all clear as a result of Human Rights legislation ?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Those who criticise this lady receiving Holy Communion, should remember the sacramenent penance restores us to grace and communion.

GMS,
I don't think anyone would recognise this couple in the parish. I have changed or left out some of the details.
This is real pastoral issue for many priests.


Auricularis, I was referring to judgement or lack of it concerned these specific individuals.

On the side of the angels said...

a] Can Conference do what it has done?

I think it might have stepped out of its remit.
Surely canon 1075 leaves general impediments on the baptised in the hands of the Pope - and in preceding canons individual impediment for a couple is in the discretion of the Ordinary for a grave reason. But Bishops Conference deals with other things like the form of prenuptial preparation and mixed marriage stuff.

Where does it get off binding a Sacrament to Civil Law?
It cannot do it!

I know the Belgium State once did it the other way round - i.e. all civic marriages had to be Religious ones - but I simply cannot see how this can be the case.

This could be the start of something big, Father - Sorry but you might have to take this a lot further - Justice demands it and Charity compels one to actuate it.

Peter Collins said...

Get a grip of yourself Paul and think about the consequences of what you are saying.
I wondered how long it would be before you came on here quoting Canon Law as if it had gone out of fashion. The more fuss you make about this issue, the more dangerous it could become for this couple, they are after all running away from something and remember, there is now a baby involved. You hardly want all this getting into the newspapers do you. Or maybe you do just to prove a point!
If Fr. Ray disobeys the Bishops and marries the couple like many on here foolishly want him to do. What then? He will no longer serve as pp, he could go to prison, but hey Paul, what do you care as long as somebody sticks their necks out who isn't you.

Damask Rose said...

Dear Fr Ray

Please could you clarify your statement:
"Ultimately, do I have to persuade Mary and Michael that despite all they have been taught and all they feel in their guts, that living together as man a wife without the blessing of Our Mother is not sinful?"

I honestly think I'm slightly dyslexic!

Did you mean to say:
"Ultimately ... that living together as man a[nd] wife without the blessing of Our Mother is sinful?

I think that the "is not sinful" probably elicited the response from me yesterday.

Damask Rose said...

Richard

I don't mean "most" co-habiting couples, I mean Catholic co-habiting (perhaps I should say 'living-in-sin') couples that then WANT to go on and arrange weddings in their local RC Church.
Obviously, the caveat here is that, as you say, the State is preventing Michael and Mary from marrying.

But is it all essentially the same? Are Michael and Mary living-in-sin while wanting to get married?

Mercury said...

I am surprised to see so many here who are so quick to jump on the young couple's sin and then use that to tar Fr. Blake's name.

When I read the post, I had made the quite logical assumption that the couple had confessed and been restored to grace, but are still burning for one another and desire to be married. I saw no reason to assume that the young lady was receiving sacrilegious communions, or that Fr. Blake was complicit.

I'm sure some of you pompous types would like to see her wait on the church steps for a year before she dare enter the church full of all the holy people like yourselves. Yes, if only we could throw out all the dirty sinners, what a perfect church we'd have!

Why can't you assume that the couple stumbled, fell, repented, and are now trying to do what is right?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Damask Rose,
It seems that an appeal to the Law under the Canons quoted by others will not granted, unless I have seriously misinterpretted the instructions I have been given.

Therefore what Richard suggests comes into play, though I am not sure they will "feel married" without the formal Rites of the Church. I am not sure how to persuade them of this.

Ttony said...

Not for Fr Blake

If somebody in Brighton knows who these two are, could you whip them up to Oxford, get Fr Hunwicke to marry them, bring them back to Brighton, and then get the Bishop to advise how to (con)validate the Sacrament.

For Fr Blake

There are lots of prayers going heavenwards for you from here, and I hope lots from elsewhere as well.

Michael Petek said...

Father, if the instructions you have been given come from the Bishop or the Vicar-General, then of course they stand.

Only the Ordinary can give permission for a marriage to be celebrated if it cannot be conducted in compliance with the civil law, and his permission is also needed for the occult celebration of marriage.

animadversor said...

Presuming that this marriage is celebrated secretly in accordance with Cann. 1130–1133, this would put the couple in the position of being publicly believed to be living together and enjoying their conjugal rights without being in any way married, although in fact, in the eyes of God, they are wed. Of course, I suspect that most of those who would come to believe this would think nothing of it, but I cannot imagine that Mary and Michael would find this agreeable. Perhaps they would find it mortifying and humiliating. So, two questions come to mind:

1) Would the sight of two persons, who are thought to be devout Catholics and whom the public believes not to be married to each other, publicly receiving the Sacraments of the Church, whilst cohabiting and presumably enjoying those rights open only to married persons—and all this with the at least tacit approval of the parish priest—cause scandal?

2)If it would not cause scandal, or if the harm caused by the scandal is outweighed by the avoidance of harm to the couple, would nevertheless the damage done through ignorance to their public reputation be bearable to the couple and if not, ought they to be persuaded to bear it?

animadversor said...

Therefore what Richard suggests comes into play, though I am not sure they will "feel married" without the formal Rites of the Church. I am not sure how to persuade them of this.

If by "I am not sure how to persuade them of this" you mean that you do not know what you will say and how you will answer their possible objections, then now is the time to start planning concretely for that. God will give you what you need, if you find anything in yourself lacking. But surely you know this, and I mention it only for the sake of form.

But perhaps by your remark you mean also that you are not sure if you will in fact persuade them. Do faithfully your part and put your worries about the success of your efforts in Our Father's lap. Who was it who said that God calls us to be faithful, not successful?

paul said...

“…I'm sure some of you pompous types would like to see her wait on the church steps for a year before she dare enter the church full of all the holy people like yourselves. Yes, if only we could throw out all the dirty sinners, what a perfect church we'd have!...”

Some of us pompous types could be found waiting on the Church steps also.

Those that in their prayers beg God’s grace come upon us, and our personal prayers for God to grant us the grace of true repentance, sit at the steps of the Church waiting for the time God so allows us to come unto Him.

“They are burning for each other and wish to be married”

When their passions have been cooled by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, confession and penance, the time will be ripe for the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

1622 "Inasmuch as it is a sacramental action of sanctification, the liturgical celebration of marriage . . . must be, per se, valid, worthy, and fruitful."123 It is therefore appropriate for the bride and groom to prepare themselves for the celebration of their marriage by receiving the sacrament of penance.

Christ told Saint Matilde the hardest thing for God to do is change the heart of man.

Our Sheppards need to help us change our hearts.

If a man loves God, and his girl, he will obey God’s will and patiently wait for his reward.

If a Padre is a good Sheppard, he uses his crook (which is the authority and teaching of Holy Mother Church) to bop his sheep on their heads that they may go into the right direction.

We as laity should encourage the Sheppard and pray and do penance for his sheep.

*

Sharon said...

Those who criticise this lady receiving Holy Communion, should remember the sacramenent penance restores us to grace and communion.

Father, would this lady be restored to grace and communion only if she had a firm purpose of amendment? If she still intends to have sexual relations with the man she loves and remains unmarried in the eyes of the Church how can she have a firm purpose of amendment and thus be in a state of grace to receive Holy Communion? If she is not in the state of grace she is committing sacrilege by receiving Holy Communion and she receives no grace.

That being said, if I were in that situation I would, like earlier Australians, make our vows in the eyes of God and then when it was possible for us to be married we would be married. The desert island analogy posted here describes this situation I think. I don't know that I would receive Holy Communion though.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Sorry, I haven't time to answer all the questions posed, nor in some instances should I and possibly some questions should not be asked!

margaret said...

I so wish you could marry them. Three out of four of my grandparents were refugees subject to whatever the law threw at them and we think things should improve with time but apparently they don't. They have will always have my prayers; thank you for having them as communicants, people prevented from doing what is at once right and what their hearts want are hardly wilful sinners.

animadversor said...

Father has said that Mary is not married to Michael, though they earnestly desire marriage, and that she is pregnant with his child. He has also said that she communicates daily. I think that the charitable thing to assume, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, is that she receives worthily, having received sacramental absolution for the sin of sexual relations outside of marriage and now living chastely, an assumption that, given what Father has told us about the couple's devotion, something about which he would know more than any of us, seems not only required by charity, but by common sense. But so many here seem to have presumed that she and Michael must still be having sex. After all, is that not the way of the world? But is it not clear to everyone that Mary and Michael are not ones to follow blindly that easy way, even if they have stumbled seriously?

Also, some here seem to think that if she had been devout, they would not have had sex outside of marriage in the first place. Well, obviously there was a lapse or a weakening of devotion, but devoutness does not import impeccability. The devout sin, too, sometimes even mortally; sometimes they even fall into a lack of charity towards their fellow-travellers.

On the side of the angels said...

Peter Collins :

Insult me as much as you wish - we're talking about what's right and wrong here.

When I say 'taking this further' I mean consulting the diocesan canonical tribunal, I mean asking is there away an Ordinary can exercise some form of dispensation [if such a thing is either necessary or indeed exists?] I mean finding out if this Conference ruling is actually canonically licit - or merely presumed praxis [and I think if it is there's a thirty year rule which WILL validate it in 2013 if uncontested.]

The state has placed a prohibition against marriage which the Church does not recognise but inadvertently by this conference ruling - the impediment is ostensibly there - and much as I denounce Conference for many things [especially its interference in education and anti-Life compromises] I sincerely do not believe that if this is within their jurisdiction they will not resolve this loophole in some way.

There is no need for Fr Ray to do anything untoward like potentially disobey his ordinary or break the law - until he truly discovers what the actual Church legislation is - and then it would be for the Church to act and authorise Fr Ray - be it via his diocesan Ordinary or the executive power of Fr Ray's normative Ordinary - i.e. His Holiness [by an appeal to whichever pertinent office]

...but frankly if it came to the crunch [irrespective of radical sanation being an absolute recourse as there are already no natural law impediments] I make the apeal to quadragesima anno of Pius XI that Charity goes beyond all demands for 'Justice' [justice being the rights handed over to a Bishops conference out of a 'conciliar courtesy'] and I'm reminded of the words of St Vincent de Paul: Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity.

Canon law makes it clear that intervention must be for a grave reason - not a mere legalistic expediancy.

This is wrong: We all know it's wrong - and the Church doesn't take its 'doing wrong' lightly.

Now do you think you could take your scurrilous imaginings, stick them where they'll no longer see the light of day and instead consider the facts ?

Fr Ray posits a question - is the Church of England and Wales by having this Bishops Conference directive; being cruel?

Unbelievably so! because it's allowing abuse by government intervention upon the rights of Catholics to marry - rendering unto Caesar that which is God's.

Therefore something should be done!

Laurence England said...

Is this the Catholic Church or the Baptist Church? Just wondering, going by some of the comments.

Gigi said...

Well well. No, I don't think some of the questions should have been raised on here either, Father!
I can't believe the tirades about immigration, particularly as this couple are asylum seekers. And why the indignation about this lady wanting to take the communion everyday? How many of the people throwing verbal pebbles on here make an effort to take the sacrament every day?
Yes, it would be idylic if everyone wanting to marry could meet The One and remain chaste until their wedding night and remain married until death doth them part. In an ideal world, there would be no persecution and no need to seek asylum. Surely a charitable mind can grasp that two people in a threatened situation, exiled from friends and family and drawn together by culture, experience and isolation could "burn for each other"?
The key is that this unmarried couple desperately want to be married; and they must have realised by now that legalising their union wll not strengthen their case for remaining in the UK.
I hope you find some way to help them Father Ray; I'm sure your continued support and concern is invaluable to them.

Lautensack said...

In Germany the goverment does not acknowledge religious marriages at all. Until recently the criminal law threatened priests marrying couples who had not married beforehand before a registrary with a fine, and the bishops forbade the contraction of such marriages.

In Germany, widows used to get very generous pensions which they lost upon remarriage, and for this reason widows normally did not want to remarry in the eyes of the law.

Some priests simpy advised them to cross the border and to get married in an Austrian diocese (forwarding the paperwork to another country was not forbidden by state law), and others simply ignored the law and married them nevertheless. I do not think that their diocesan bishops were pleased with it, but I do not think that the validity of these marriages was ever in question.

(Recently, the goverment has lifted this restriction. However, the bishops have now ruled that priests are still not allowed to marry those not married before the state without a permission of the bishop - this rule is said to exist so that the spouses know exactly about the legal implications of not being married before the state. Again, I do not think that this ban has any pertinence to the validity of a marriage.)

One should not forget that what constitutes the sacramental validity of marriages is the will of the spouses to have a sacramental marriage. If some people got stranded on an island without a priest they could, in my opinion, still confer the sacrament of marriage between each other since they could not access a priest and so would be dispensed from the regulations of the Council of Trent. If a priest cannot marry them for some political reasons in England the situation should be similar.

Gerald said...

What, in any of Fr Blake's words about this poor couple, has even suggested that they are continuing to fornicate? My immediate assumption from the original post was that they had repented and been absolved of their previous sin and were now living chastely until such times as they can marry. That they "burn for each other" makes them like most young couples chastely awaiting marriage I would have thought!

So instead of assuming the worst of this couple (and Fr Blake, whose clear loyalty to the Church makes it far easier for me to assume the best, as charity demands, than would be the case with some priests!), perhaps we should be praying for quick solution to this problem.

It appears to me the bishops need to seriously review how much attention they pay to civil marriage laws. While having a sitution like that in France, where separate civil ceremonies are legally required, would be highly inconvenient and, to my mind, insulting, it would be a minor cross to bear if it avoids subjecting a sacrament to the whims of a state that has increasingly un-Christian ideas about marriage.

Please God, may Michael and Mary be able to sacramentally marry soon, without any ecclesiastical disobedience.

Paul, Bedfordshire said...

Hang on, surely there is a simple way out of this, one which the Church already teaches:

The Church does NOT marry anyone, people marry themselves. The church witnesses the marriage - But Only When It Can Do So.

If a person were marooned on an island with no priest or deacon and wanted to marry someone else similarly marooned, then it is quite licit that the persons concerned could exchange vows themselves. They would then be married in the eyes of the church.

So surely, if the said island had priests, but they were prevented from marrying a couple despite the couple being free to marry in the eyes of the church, then exactly the same situation would apply. I suspect that such things did indeed happen in certain communist countries in the past.

If I were in their position, I would:


1) Exchange the marriage vows with my wife to be, preferably with two (layperson catholic in good standing) witnesses present who could testify that the vows had been exchanged. Ideally, quietly within an otherwise empty city centre Catholic church that is left open all day, before the Blessed Sacrament (and without informing the priests at said church about it to avoid dragging them into a difficult situation)

2) Inform the Church that this had taken place afterwards and request a "conditional marriage" once the state stopped interfering. (analogy with conditional baptism after a layperson baptises a gravely ill baby which subsequently recovers)

nickbris said...

There seems to be lot of Un-Christian claptrap about immigrants. Without the millions of immigrant workers this country has been blessed with GB would not only be firmly entrenched in the third world but would be LAST.

Auricularis should be transported to make room for a few more deserving cases.

santoeusebio said...

I must say surely there is some provision under Canon Law for an exception to be made in this case.

It reminds me of two incidents:

1. Couple arranged to get married in a Catholic Church but on the day it is found they do not have the necessary civil authorisation. Catholic wedding service cancelled and couple go off on their honeymoon seemingly with the consent of the Parish Priest. I was rather shocked at the time and having regard to the reputation of the bridegroom I thought the bride was being exceedingly foolish.

2. 50 years ago I remember Pere Nicolas sailing off to the Mauritius dependencies - Diego Agalega, the Chagos archipelago etc - a voyage of several hundred miles undertaken every three years. He told me that he sometimes wondered whether some of the people he married had not in fact been married by him on previous visits possibly to different people and they regarded marriage as a three year event. Apparently the registration system was fairly chaotic as most were illiterate.

Mercury said...

animadversor and Gerald - you said what I was trying to say much better than I was able to. Thank you. Fr. gave the readers no reason to assume that this couple continued sinning. In fact, I interpreted "burning for each other" as meaning that they wanted to be with one another but couldn't.

Reading some people on the Internet (and no, I am not accusing anyone here of this), one can get the impression that there are Catholics out there who hate sexual attraction and desire itself, as if these were not God-given impulses (As opposed to lust, which is the misuse of them) to help lead people to marriage. I get the impression sometimes that since marriage and sex are *ONLY* for procreation (according to such folk), you're better off marrying someone you're not even attracted to, and leaving him/her alone until it's time to procreate again. Even then, try not to enjoy it.

Unbiblical, illogical, but several Saints shared this view. Thank God the Church doesn't.

Michael Petek said...

"One should not forget that what constitutes the sacramental validity of marriages is the will of the spouses to have a sacramental marriage."

I beg to put myself in clear and present danger of differing.

If the contractants irrevocably give to and receive from each other the exclusive right to engage together in acts of a kind which can of themselves result in procreation, they marry. If not, they do something other than marry.

This defines intention, and there is no distinction here between a sacramental and a natural marriage.
What makes a marriage sacramental is the fact that both spouses have received baptism.

Gigi said...

I have checked with two friends who either work for The Home Office now or have done in the recent past. For various inexplicably convuluted reasons, Father Ray is right. He could indeed be prosecuted if he marries a couple in this situation, even though in layman's terms he is simply doing his "job"!
As for other warped reasoning voiced on here in response to this post; I stand with and thank Mercury for recent comments.

Monica said...

Fr Blake - this is a truly sad case and my heart goes out to you and this good couple in trying find the right solution to correct what is manifectly a wrong situation.

I'm not qualified to advise, but it is a truism that charity outranks other issues where such injustices are involved.

The possibility outlined by Paul from Bedfordshire seems to me the way that I would personally go.

As for the validity of a 'secret' wedding witnessed by a priest or deacon (with or without episcopal authority), would that not be analogous with the marriage of Mrs Fitzherbert and the Prince Regent? As far as I recall from my history, that marriage was certainly deemed valid by the Church, though not so by the State.

My prayers are with you.

Peter said...

Father
I do not think that you should break either the civil law or the instructions of the Church in letter or in spirit as advised by some of your commenters. This sort of matter should be one that you are confident to place before your bishop. He can appeal to the Pope for guidance. He can refuse marriage and explain to the couple. He can decide to take responsibility for marrying them. That is the responsibility of his position or pay grade. You are not responsible for the circumstances and are not cut off from contact with him. You can explain that the default position, one that you believe reflects his current instruction, is that you may not marry the couple. The bishop is responsible for telling you if you are wrong.
Without any knowledge of the civil law issues it does occur to me that the legal status of the child, if born in the UK, might depend on that of the parents. There have, I believe, been suspicions that mothers have had children as a means to get around immigration law. So the state is entitled to defend its position. In some cases the poor UK tax payer might be exposed to a large welfare bill.
Good luck Father. Trying to do right is not easy.

Saint Michael Come To Our Defense said...

“…Unbiblical, illogical, but several Saints shared this view. Thank God the Church doesn't….”


Holy Mother Church teaching is diametrically opposed to these Liberal beliefs.

One instance of Her teaching on Marriage:

ARCANUM

ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_10021880_arcanum_en.html

The lesson of water into wine.

Marriage is like clear, pure, water.

When the hand if Christ is placed into it, it becomes as the best wine.

Water that stands on its own becomes stale, and bitter, as well a marriage without Christ present.

A marriage in which Christ is present becomes as wine: it gets better with age.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that "by its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring, and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory" (CCC 1652).

The following quotations show that the Fathers were concerned especially about today's "overlooked” aspect of marriage, procreation.

Cyril of Jerusalem

"Let those. . . be of good cheer who are married and use their marriage properly; who enter marriage lawfully and not out of wanton and unbounded license; who recognize periods of continence so that they may give themselves to prayer; who in the assemblies bring clean bodies as well as clean garments into church; who have embarked upon the matrimonial estate for the procreation of children, and not for the sake of indulgence" ( Catechetical Lectures 4:25 [AD. 350]).

Lactantius

"Whoever cannot control his affections, let him keep them within the limits of a lawful bed" (Divine Institutes 6:23:3 [AD. 307]).

"God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure, but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring" (ibid. 6:23:18).

"There are two reasons why marriage was instituted, that we may live chastely and that we may become parents" (On Those Words of the Apostle 'On Account of Fornication' [A.D. 392]).

Augustine

"Among all nations and all men, therefore, the advantage of marriage is for the sake of begetting offspring and in the fidelity of chastity. In the case of the people of God, however, there is also the holiness of the sacrament, on which account a woman is not permitted, even when she leaves with a repudiation, to marry another while her husband yet lives, not even for the sake of bearing children. Although this is the only reason why marriage takes place, even if this for which marriage takes place does not follow, the marriage bond is loosed only by the death of a spouse" ( On the Good of Marriage 24:32 [A.D. 401]).

*

santoeusebio said...

Gigi says you might be prosecuted. I wonder whether this is correct. Perhaps you are a civil Registrar in which case if you were to conduct a marriage service which purported to marry them civilly as well as religiously then I can see that possible there may be some sort of offence committed - I have no idea what the law says but I can imagine that it might say something on those lines in this case.

However if you are not a civil registrar then I cannot see how you could be prosecuted. I write this in total ignorance of the relevant civil law - just my gut feeling and worth exploring. Indeed if you were a Civil Registrar and were to marry them religiously but without any of the trappings of civil marriage or intention to marry them civilly I think prosecution would not be on the cards.

Further if they are both asylum seekers I am not sure that their being married would make any difference to their situation as to how they might get a right to stay. If one of them was to marry a British citizen then the case might be different and be seen as a way of attempting to get round immigration rules. Perhaps you need to take advice from a lawyer who is expert in these matters.

Nicolas Bellord

Mercury said...

Pablo - not sure what you are getting at. Of course, procreation is the number one good of marriage, but it is not the ONLY good.

Lactantius was wrong on this count. Period. Casti Connubi, Humane Vitae, and other magisterial documents all reject the notion that marriage and sex are ONLY for procreation. Several orthodox writers, among them St. Alphonus Liguori, Thomas Sanchez, St. Francis de Sales, and of course, more recent holy men like Dietrich von Hildebrand, Pope Pius XII, Pope John Paul II, and Fr. John Hardon would disagree.

To say that procreation is the ONLY reason for marriage and sexuality is frankly heretical, and to insist that married couples sin in their non-contraceptive marital relations is in fact, evil and pernicious.

Some saints believed that man sins by having relations with his wife without a specific *intention* to procreate (as opposed to openness to life). This is not true, and all magisterial documents on marriage and sexuality reject this viewpoint.

catholicshinobi said...

Marry them in the eyes of God, nobody else need know.

I thought we'd put behind us the days when people needed to be wed in secret, but perhaps not.

The separation of Church and State works both ways! what would St Thomas Becket say about such a concession by the Church of its authority over spiritual matters?

Damask Rose said...

Part 1

At the moment I am reading a lovely little book called "Uniformity with God's will" by St Alphonsus Liguori which explains how we can come to love our Lord through uniting our will to the Divine Will which will help us to lead holy and serene lives. So, if God sends us adversity, ill-health, poverty for instance, we need only accept these patiently and abandon ourselves to God because perhaps God has reasons for us treading a certain path. I would also very much like to read "Finding God's will for you" by St Francis de Sales. Just recently, Fr Mark Kirby over at Vultus Christi has put up a profound reflection called "This life of yours will pass quickly" (Feb 19) about the Will of God. Go over and have a look to see what I mean.

How inspiring it would have been indeed if Fr Ray's post had described how he had already persuaded Michael and Mary to choose the Lord over themselves, thus calling it a day on their relationship. They would live their separate lives according to the Catechism and witness to the Catholic Faith, giving excellent example to those divorced Catholics contemplating remarriage or inspire those remarried Catholics to separate completely or live the "Josephite marriage". Additonally, I'm certain, they would bring down blessings upon themselves for living chaste separate lives, wherein they would witness to their child the fullness of the Faith, with no scandal of trying to explain the Catechism of the Church while perhaps living together in an unmarried state ("don't do as we do"). I'm sure Michael would play a major role in the child's life as best as would be possible. Charity as per the Catechism is loving God first and then your neighbour as yourself, so Michael by leaving Mary, would be honouring Mary by waiting for her, as I believe was mentioned above by Paul's lovely comment at 19/2/11 11:01 PM.

Temptation would be lessened and they could live peacefully and be free in the Truth. Indeed, they may be already living separately.

Damask Rose said...

Part 2

A constant consideration by Michael and Mary of Church and State's decision not to allow them to marry could prevent them from moving on in their life and almost justify a continuance in how they live their life at the moment. Psychologically, living under such a constant cloud could numb them. Being devout, if Mary conceived another child, this could way heavily on them both. Their situation reminds me of Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" where Vronsky and Anna too, were unable to marry. Though I would say Vronsky's and Anna's situation was worse.

Sometimes God sends signs, and being unable to marry through Church and State, maybe God wants something else for them. If they are devout, maybe God wants them to make a little more effort for Him and so wants them to wait a while before marriage.

I sincerely hope they can marry through Richard's suggestion. Apologies for encouraging Fr Ray into disobedience, but I honestly thought of Romeo and Juliet. Maybe they could go on a retreat to a monastery and get a dear monk to marry them quietly. I wonder if the SSPX could marry them? I'm not sure if it would be valid, but maybe the SSPX will be regularised soon.... (?!)

Sorry if my initial email was over-the-top, but Fr Ray's penultimate para in his post jarred me somewhat.

Gigi - "Yes, it would be idylic if everyone wanting to marry could meet The One and remain chaste until their wedding night and remain married until death doth them part." It's not an idyll, it's called the Catholic Faith. Check your Catechism.

Thank you Fr Young and Titus for your comments.

Mercury said...

Why should anyone assume that the best thing for this couple would be to simply give up all hope and never marry? How can you decide that that would be the right thing for them? I would be very uncomfortable suggesting that someone else who I do not know *should* choose the most difficult path.

Perhaps God does want them to take some time living apart, awaiting marriage patiently. Maybe they do have to accept God's will at this point in their lives, and maybe that does mean it will take them a while to get married, and that until that point they will have to live separately. Why can't they pray "Lord, we truly wish to marry, but we will respect your will in all things"? You make it sound like these two people are sinning or doing something contrary to God's will by wishing to be married.

However, the issue here is that there are two adults who truly desire sacramental marriage and have no impediments. The only thing standing in the way of that is a state law, which the Church there seems to respect above its own canons.

Gigi said...

Nicholas - Hi. I agree that Mary and Michael would not progress any case they have to stay in the UK by marrying, so any legal argument against sanctifying their union seems even more relentlessly cruel and pedantic.
But I'm afraid the wonderful E and W immigartion law does seem to rule that Father Ray could be prosecuted for conducting what the state would deem a "sham" marriage, because the state would try to prove that he was encouraging the couple to act unlawfullly. It makes little sense to me, morally or intellectually. I have also been told by my Home Office friend, who can't explain why either, that there is "discretion" afforded to C of E priests in this situation, but not from any other faith; even other Christian denominations. Crazy! Does anyone know what on earth this means? (Would certainly mean little in Heaven).
I agree that Faher Ray should get some free one to one legal advice. I assume somewhere within the Archdiocese or Province there is necessarily a legal adviser?
Damask Rose - you seem like a wonderfully devoted person. But why would it be unacceptable that God has actually brought Mary and Michael together? Why would it be more inspiring for Father Ray to persuade a family unit and two soul loves to part, resulting in an enforced single mum and a visiting father? I know that there are hundreds of such divided families in our town and I am not being judgemental; but it is far from ideal for all concerned and this couple are actively trying to be a family, not least in the eyes of their church.
Surely, if the Catholic church can help Mary and Michael achieve their dream of marriage and devoted parenthood, against these odds, that would be truly inspirational?

Gigi said...

Damask Rose: your Part 2 came through before I last posted. I take offence rather at your recent comment that I am not aware of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, particularly as I maintain celibacy because I am unmarried. I view the Catechism as the ideal by which we should strive to live as Catholics - my dictionary definition of an "ideal" is: "conforming to an ultimate standard of perfection or excellence". Which is largely how I view my faith.
But my comments referred to the need for understanding, compassion, impartiality and non-judgement. And I believe this is essentially Christian also.
I do not wish to enter into a slanging match as a demonstration of devout Catholicism. That surely isn't going to help Mary, Michael or Father Ray in this situation.

Rabies Theologorum said...

I presume that if a priest were to look at his congregation and question whether they were in a state of grace for communion he might not leave the altar and dispense with the communion of the people altogether. The communion of the people is of recent use historically. I am surprised by some comments on here which are frankly less than charitable. To those on here are to busy looking at who is or is not going to communion and their state of grace there is something in the gospels about planks in eyes....And that stuff about not judging...
I wish them well....if they were to leave UK jurisdiction the claim for asylum would be null.